A special education teacher in Alabama who established a small chicken farm on campus to teach students about agriculture, a team of Florida teachers whose garden club members use bicycle-generated energy to power the school’s garden irrigation system, a teacher in Oklahoma whose students built models of farm machinery out of Legos – these are just a few of the inspiring teachers who have been selected as the 2019 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award winners.
The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Credit partner each year to honor kindergarten through 12th grade teachers from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM/STEAM and more.
"We are proud to honor these teachers who use agricultural concepts to deliver important reading, writing, math, nutrition, science and social studies lessons to students," said Dr. Victoria LeBeaux, the National Agriculture in the Classroom Program Leader for USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)."The real-life connections teachers make by using items students use every day resonates with these students." NIFA provides federal leadership and annual funding for NAITC.
"We applaud these teachers for the innovative ways they use agriculture to teach students about this important industry," said Will Fett, president of NAITCO and executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. "We honor them for the strides they make in agricultural literacy in their classrooms every day."
"Farm Credit's commitment to rural communities and agriculture extends to our support of initiatives that build the next generation of agriculture advocates," said president and CEO of the Farm Credit Council, Todd Van Hoose. "These outstanding teachers represent the best and brightest ideas in agriculture literacy education. Farm Credit is proud to support their innovative work."
Rachel Chastain, a teacher at the Helen Keller Campus of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Alabama. Rachel’s students learn about agriculture and animal husbandry by rearing chickens and other small farm animals on school grounds.
Andy Klatt, a physical education teacher at Grandview Elementary in Windsor, Colorado. Andy uses a school garden and an after-school garden club to teach students about the importance of healthy eating and exercise.
Millennia Gardens Elementary School Teaching Team - Dawn Chehab, Joshua Garrett, John Martinez, Erica Roberts and Nicholas Zebroski work together at Millennia Gardens Elementary School in Orlando, Florida, where they who established an ‘Eco-Club’ for their third through fifth grade students. Together, students grow food in raised bed gardens and hydroponics towers, learn about protecting the environment and being good stewards of the land with a wildlife sanctuary, and develop alternative energy sources with a ‘Pedal-A-Watt’ bicycling station that powers the school’s garden irrigation system.
Beth Sletta, a STEM teacher at Jefferson Elementary in New Ulm, Minnesota. Beth’s students design a winter seed sowing system to grow vegetables when it’s too cold to grow them outside and use a 3-D printer to design longer-lasting plant stakes, among other initiatives.
Johnnie Keel, a math and gifted teacher at Truman Elementary in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, works with third, fourth and fifth graders to research farm equipment designs online and build miniature versions of this machinery using Legos. Students also participate in a STEM Day to learn about chemistry and genetics in agriculture, among other projects.
Dawn Alexander, a fifth-grade teacher at Tom McCall Elementary in Redmond, Oregon, uses bees and a project called ‘Please the Bees' to educate students about agriculture and the environment.
Brad Hendershot, a science teacher at Excelsior Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah, teaches a special class called “Greenthumbs.” Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades work in two schoolyard greenhouses to grow, harvest, market and sell their fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants.
Chris Kniesly, a life science teacher at Twain Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, teaches students how to grow lettuce hydroponically, raise crayfish, cultivate mushrooms and produce 'hot' compost to learn important plant biology and aquaculture lessons.
This blog post was adapted from National Ag in the Classroom’s press release.